Miscellaneous musings from the perspective of a lefty (both senses) atheist with a warped sense of humor.

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Location: Madison, WI, United States

I am a geek, but I do have some redeeming social skills. I love other people's dogs, cats, and kids. Snow sucks, but I'm willing to put up with it just to live in Madison.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Wisconsin Republicans Lie about "Right to Work"

Wouldn’t it be nice if Republicans were held to the kind of “truth in labeling” requirements that we expect of cereal, detergent, and medication manufacturers? But no! They can label their legislative proposals with any kind of deceptive feel-good wording they want, so as to disguise their true regressive character. For example, during the 21st Century they’ve given us legislation masquerading as the ...
  • Clear Skies Act
  • Healthy Forests Initiative
... and on subjects which they characterize as ...
  • "partial-birth" abortion
  • tax “relief"
  • tort “reform”
And now they’ve come up with “right to work”.

Listen, I’d be 100% slam-dunk in favor of a real right-to-work law, if that’s what the Wisconsin GOP were really pushing. An honestly labelled right to work would mean that anyone who really wanted a job would be guaranteed of one, with the government serving as the employer of last resort, the way it was in the Great Depression, when millions of unemployed people were put to work by the New Deal’s “alphabet agencies" like the WPA, PWA, CCC, and NYA. This would be an excellent way to provide everyone with the dignity of gainful employment while simultaneously getting cash circulating in the economy at the local level, where it’s needed most.

But no. They’re lying about it. Again. Their so-called “right to work” legislation is nothing of the sort. It’s being pitched as promoting “worker freedom”, when really it’s all about “right to fire” for the employers and “I got your freedom right here” for the workers.

Corporations do not lack control over their workers. They have almost all of the power as it is. About the only thing counterbalancing them is the collective will of society, expressed thru legislation, that common people should not be taken unfair advantage of. If only the Republicans in the Wisconsin Legislature were working on behalf of the common people who elected them, instead of the fat-cat corporations and millionaires who finance their campaigns, my beloved Badger State wouldn’t be marching steadily backward toward peonage and feudalism.

= = = = = =
Q: How come corporations are cutting way back on lobbying expenses?
A: They've decided that, long-term, it's cheaper to own than to rent.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Why "$" but not "%"?

Dear Skeptical Inquirer:

Charles A. Reichardt and Ian A. Saari performed a valuable service with their research into “When Don’t the Highly Educated Believe in Evolution?”, and Skeptical Inquirer is to be commended for publishing it.

I am writing because the article was festooned with the word “percent” — occurring 6 times in the opening big-type paragraph alone and many more times thereafter. References to percents of the population are only to be expected in analyses of shifts in public opinion, and I have no problem whatsoever with their usage in such a context.

What continues to drive me up the wall, however, is their formatting — always as the spelled-out word “percent”, never as the more efficient and more readily apprehended symbol “%”. See it right there, the capital “5” on your keyboard, chummy next-door nabor to “$”, the capital “4”, which nobody ever seems to have any problems using, and only 3 doors down from the hugely popular "@"?

So why does Skeptical Inquirer, along with all major newspapers and magazines, continue to eschew the “%” in favor of the “percent”? The answer should be an embarrassment to any group dedicated to critical, forward-looking thinking and not being dragged down by the heavy chains of tradition and cultural conditioning. It’s the same reason we’re all still stuck with QWERTY keyboards: a relic of the technological inadequacies of a bygone era.

Christopher Sholes invented the awkward QWERTY key layout back in 1873 for the express purpose of slowing down early touch typists, so their mechanical keys wouldn’t keep jamming all the time. And the Associated Press Style Book insisted on spelling out the word “percent” because the lowest-common-denominator teletypes of the 1930s and 1940s didn’t have that symbol as part of their character set. Teletypes! Hell, you can hardly even find a fax machine any more.

Just as the NFL has no excuse for continuing to use Roman numerals for the Super Bowl when Arabic numerals are available and easier to translate, just as the US has no excuse for obstinately clinging to ACHU (the accidental collection of heterogeneous units) when the rest of the world has gone metric, so too does Skeptical Inquirer have no excuse for using “percent” instead of “%”. You guys, at least, should be open-minded enuf to do something about it.

= = = = = =
If God had wanted us to use the metric system, he would have given us 10 fingers.

— Ashleigh Brilliant

Friday, February 13, 2015

Not My Kinda Guy

I am an atheist.

So is Craig Stephen Hicks, who on Feb. 10 murdered, execution style, 3 young students at the University of North Carolina, ostensibly because he hated religion in general (and Christianity in particular) but for whatever reason felt compelled to take it out on Muslims.

Let there be no mistake about my own reaction to this:
 • I respect the right of anyone to believe any damfool piece of cockamamie horse manure they want.
 • This does not mean I have to respect the people who believe it.
 • It certainly doesn't mean I have any respect for the horseshit itself.
 • But under no circumstances should anybody ever, ever, ever go out and bully, harass, discriminate against, torment, threaten, harm, or kill anyone else because of their beliefs. Never! Always wrong!

I condemn the despicable actions of Craig Hicks in the most emphatic terms possible.

He does not speak or act for me or any other atheist I know.

Monday, February 09, 2015

Wisconsin's Shameful Election Schedule

To Rep. Mark Pocan, Sen. Tammy Baldwin, and Sen. Ron Johnson:

I work as an election official at a campus ward in Madison. We used to do beaucoup registration business for the September primary elections, since many many students had just begun their new leases on Aug. 15, and the primary always used to be held in early September. No longer, however. The primary's been moved back to August, and simultaneously the unfailingly franchise-friendly administration of Gov. Scott Walker extended the lead time needed to qualify as a resident from 10 to 28 days. This means that almost zero students will qualify as living at their college address by the time the primary rolls around. Failing to register then, they will be less likely to vote in the general election in November as well.

The 28-day lead time is squarely on Wisconsin Republicans, but moving the date of the primary back to August is not. I'm informed (but have not verified) that this was done as a federal requirement, so that the results of the primary election could be ginned up into absentee ballots in time to send them abroad (specifically to military personnel) and get them back in time for the general election. If this is true, I find it astonishing. The US government knows exactly where each and every one of our men and women under arms is physically located, because it’s the Pentagon that tells them exactly where they must be. And it's an agency of the federal government that's responsible for getting their mail to them in a timely fashion. If our service people can't expect anything better than 45-DAY TURNAROUND for something as big and obvious as an absentee-ballot envelope, what kind of crappy service are we inflicting on them for their regular mail delivery?

Compounding this utter failure of the federal government to do right by our troops is the shameful shuffling off onto the states of the responsibility for dealing with the consequences. So, in exchange for doing a half-assed job of trying to let about a million troops participate in the democratic process, Congress has effectively disenfranchised tens of millions of college students and recent high-school graduates just entering the workforce.

I'd like you to initiate action to get the federal government to provide a condign level of mail service to our military, so we can return this chunk of democracy to the citizenry with a sensible election schedule.

= = = = = =
It was the first election of the post-apartheid era in South Africa, and the TV news crew was out in the boonies looking for good human-interest stories. The government hadn’t been able to set up sufficient polling locations or staff them fully, so there was a long line stretching out of one rural poll into the dusty prairie beyond. The crew set out, walking toward the end of the line, looking for likely interviewees.

They spotted one old gent, dressed colorfully but leaning heavily on his cane, and asked him where he was from. It turned out that he lived about 20 klicks away and had left the previous night, walking and resting as he went, to get here. He was nowhere near the front of the line, and they said it looked like things were moving slowly.

“That’s all right”, he said. “I can wait.”

“How long have you been waiting already?”, they asked.

“About 60 years.”

I always vote.